Monday, March 13, 2017

Things Never To Say To a Trans Person

So there are a whole bunch of these lists on the internets but I want to share my take on it (I may have another one on this blog but whatever...). I am not going to post a whole lot of background here, I have an article on how people can be positive trans allies here, but it is important to remember that trans people are and feel marginalized in most of western society and as such words and phrasing matter. This post is meant to be a starting point really more than a full complete list. I will probably add to it as time goes on. In reality though this topic includes all kinds of things to avoid or be mindful of and many can be specific to the person you are speaking to. I want to point out that this isn't an article about being politically correct. I am not saying these things because it is progressive or an attempt to further an agenda. I am posting this stuff because we are all human and all worth of respect and that includes respecting how someone expresses and experiences their own self.

With that said, here are some specifics:

Trans people are people, don't constantly remind them they are different - If you treat or speak to a trans person like an "other" than you run the risk of coming off as insensitive or possibly offensive, even if your attempt is to sound more inclusive! Does this mean don't be inclusive? Of course not, but don't be over the top about it. There can be a fine line here. Treat trans people with the respect you would anyone and you will be off to a great start.

ANYTHING ABOUT THEIR GENITALS OR SURGERY! - I walk up to you and say "Hello, I'm Kat". You respond "Hi, I'm [insert name]"... fast forward through some pleasantries... "So, i am wondering, can I ask if you about..." At this point you should just stop. Nothing that follows is appropriate unless I am holding a basket of kittens. But honestly, ask yourself, "Is what I am about to ask a normal question I would expect someone to ask me after knowing me for minutes, seconds, hours... even a month?" Also, why do you care? Are you trying to rectify or justify something about this person? Will knowing they have or had not had surgery make them more (or less) trans? Is it relevant? Either way, asking a stranger or even a friend about their genitals is weird, creepy, and never cool. If they bring it up be respectful and don't pry. Lastly, if you are asking because it is relevant (say you are sexually attracted to this person and/or have been dating) then phrase it appropriately and do it at an appropriate time.

Asking about their past - The popular topic her is their old name but also can include things like work history and even family and relationships. Some people don't want to talk about how their marriage of 30 years to their soulmate fell apart seemingly overnight because of their transition. Be respectful.

Be respectful of pronouns - This is a tricky topic. We should all try to use the correct pronouns that anyone wants us to use and I 100% agree that when in doubt ask; but for fucks sake do it respectfully. Singling out a person bluntly in a group can be humiliating whereas being polite and discrete about it can be much more tactful. If you are uncomfortable asking in a given situation use the persons name until a more appropriate time arrives. Also, for the trans folks reading, have patience with your friends and family. There is a difference between slipping up and non-acceptance. It has been 10 years since I started this journey and even I turn when I hear my old name sometimes.

Anything like "You look like a real [woman / man]" or "You'd pass better if..." - Thanks, you can just call me Pinocchio from now on. -_- This type of comment takes many different forms and varies from outright rude to well intentioned advice. The truth is if you feel you need to complement someone, or en (or dis)-courage them, just say they look nice like you would anyone else. Don't qualify it to make them feel like they are passing some kind of test. This can be particularly difficult if you feel the person you are talking to is making a HUGE fashion mistake or wearing what you see as inappropriate clothing. What seems like well intentioned advice tends to make people feel like they are missing some kind of arbitrary mark. We don't get to tell others how to express their gender correctly. BTW, there is a lot of psychology here as well and people need to experiment with different versions of themselves. It is way more fun to help them in this process rather that criticize them for it. If someone asks your advice, give it but be respectful (sensing a theme?)

Don't make everything be about their transness - How do trans people like ice cream? Do trans people cry at the end of Old Yeller? Enough said... We are right back where we started, trans people are people, treat them as such. We do all the things you do and its refreshing to just be seen as being one of the gang.